Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Following Up On Following The Money: State House Leader's Cannabis Contributions Spotlighted As Legalization Speculation Grows, And: Eyeballing Those Optometrist Donations 

Follow the money goes the mantra, and so off we go. . .

House Majority Leader Nate Gentry came with a Republican eyebrow raiser when his recent campaign finance report disclosed that he received over $13,000 from companies and individuals involved in the medical marijuana business. Now this:

A year after medical cannabis producers got the green light to triple the number of marijuana plants they can legally grow, Republican House Majority Leader Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) is urging the health department to reconsider its regulatory cap. Gentry’s suggestion is outlined in a Feb. 24 letter sent to then-Health Secretary Retta Ward. . .“The concern is that we just don't have sufficient plant material to meet patient needs,” says Gentry.

Gentry was also asked if he would support any pot legalization measures that might come before the next session of the legislature. His response? Well, he did not directly respond. Another reason for Republican eyebrows around the state to get raised. 

Gov. Martinez has said she will not sign any legislation decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, but a future Democratic governor might.

Republican businessman Duke Rodriguez, a former cabinet secretary under Gov. Gary Johnson, has become a major player in the medical marijuana business here and is positioned to take advantage of any future legalization. That story here.


And take a look at what's happening in California. Is it a story soon to come to our enchanted land?

Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.

The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.

And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits. . . 

Even though Republican base voters in NM often have conservative social views it was the New Mexico GOP under Gov. Johnson that led the successful charge for legalized gambling by the state's Indian Pueblos.

However, Johnson tore the R's apart when he also advocated legalized marijuana. With changing social mores and public opinion polls showing widespread support for legal recreational use of pot, the GOP may not be so divided. Most important, as with gambling, there is money to be made and campaign contributions to be had.

And not just for the R's. We look for the next round of gubernatorial candidates from both parties to score significant campaign contributions from the medical cannabis biz and then a full-fledged pot legalization push in the 2019 legislative session.

Gov. Martinez may not support legalizing marijuana, but it his her administration putting in place the building blocks for legalization by allowing supposedly nonprofit medical marijuana farms to essentially become profit making enterprises.


We asked for Alligator assistance Tuesday when it came to those thousands of dollars in campaign contributions collected from individual state optometrists by House Majority Leader Gentry. What interest did they have at the Roundhouse? A number of Gators came with explanations. Let's put them under the magnifying glass:

Joe, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez carried SB 367 for the optometrists in the 2015 legislative session. As you may recall, at the time Sen. Sanchez was killing many pet bills of the House Republicans. When SB 367 made it to the House, the R's were drooling to kill it because it had Sen. Sanchez's name on it. For whatever reason, Republican Leader Rep. Gentry got the bill passed through the House and Governor Martinez signed it into law. The optometrists also gave heavily to Sanchez's campaign fund.

SB 367 made changes to the state optometry board and gave optometrists greater prescribing powers for medications.

And another Alligator eyes the matter:

Joe, Optometrists around the country are pushing laws to prohibit Vision Care Plans (VCP) from placing conditions on optometrists that are part of their network. Optometrists don’t make much money from the exams, they make it by significantly marking up glasses they provide directly to patients. Vision Care Plans are trying to reduce costs and are pushing optometrists to agree to use the VCP preferred eye wear providers as a condition of being in their network.

And you'll fog your glasses up chuckling over this 2014 optometrist connection to Gov. Martinez and the medical marijuana industry:

Charles "Randy" Briggs is planning to host Martinez at a $2,600-a-plate fundraiser at his home this Thursday, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Briggs, a Carlsbad native and ophthalmologist, is also listed as the business agent for Grandote Green LLC. The company applied for a commercial development license earlier this year to start a "marijuana medical and retail" business in La Veta, a tiny town of 800 in the south central region of Colorado.

We did not spot any contribution from optometrist Briggs on Gentry's latest campaign report.When it comes to following the money the Alligators have 20/10 vision or better.

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